Monday, June 25, 2012
Grant-Frontier Park and Montana City
The history of Montana City is relatively short, since the gold diggings that were discovered there were neither as large or as profitable as the miners had hoped. The original settlement owed its existence, like many of the towns and settlements in Colorado that sprung up during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, to the belief or hope that there would be valuable minerals , primarily gold, to be found nearby. The site chosen for Montana City was on the banks off the South Platte River, just north of the confluence of Little Dry Creek, and was close to placer gold deposits that had been discovered along the Platte.
The population of Montana City was made up of a portion of the much larger Lawrence Party, a group of prospectors that had left Lawrence, Kansas in search of gold, wealth, and adventure. The Lawrence Party was one of two primary groups of gold-seekers that came to Colorado in the late-1850s. The Lawrence Party would eventually settle at Montana City while the Russell Party, from Georgia, settled at the Auraria site. Initially following the Santa Fe Trail, the Lawrence Party traveled through Bent's Old Fort, prospected near the Garden off the Gods outside of Colorado Springs, and then headed into the San Luis Valley. It was here that the group split, with some members continuing on to Taos, New Mexico and others following the Platte River north towards what would become Denver.
When the prospectors reached the confluence of the Platte and Little Dry Creek the built a row of cabins, thus creating the first permanent structures in the Denver area. Unfortunately, the mining operation failed completely, with many of the settlers leaving by the first winter and returning to Kansas. The cabins were dismantled and moved upstream to the Auraria site, which was a far more successful settlement.
Today there is a very nice park on the site, which is right next to a very busy bike path. The site has been completely demolished by time/improvements/development/etc. but there are a few structures, the cabin and mining equipment pictured above, which were reconstructed by a local high school and a local historical society. There's some neat history in the area, but there's not a lot to see there today.
Getting There By Bike...
The easiest way to get to the park, at least from where I live, is to get on Asbury, which parallels Evans, and head west. At Santa Fe, merge onto Evans and cross over the highway. The park is on the left, almost immediately after you cross the bridge. The park is also immediately next to the South Platte Bike Path, and a short ride up or down it would bring you right into the center of the site.